Bloomberg News

Oil Prices ‘A Bit on the High Side,’ Ecuador Minister Says

March 13, 2012

Crude prices are “a bit on the high side,” said Wilson Pastor, Ecuador’s oil minister, echoing comments other OPEC officials made as the producers prepare to meet consumers for talks on the global market.

Ecuador would be “comfortable” with prices for U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate at $80 to $100 a barrel, Pastor said today in an interview in Kuwait, where he’s attending a meeting of the International Energy Forum. WTI has averaged $102.29 a barrel this year and hasn’t closed below $100 since Feb. 10, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Pastor’s counterparts from the United Arab Emirates, Angola and Oman yesterday said current prices for European benchmark Brent crude at more than $125 a barrel are “high” as a result of international political tensions. The IEF meets every two years to discuss issues that will determine future supply and demand in the global market.

Brent has gained 17 percent this year, mainly on concern that a conflict involving Iran may choke off exports from the Persian Gulf and limit market supplies. Prices surged last year after a revolution in Libya stopped exports from the North African country.

Ample Supply

WTI has traded lower as ample supply and limited export capacity from the U.S. pricing hub curbed price gains. Some European refiners also struggled to replace oil of similar quality to the Libyan crude that wasn’t supplied last year.

Oil prices are “high at the moment,” Ryo Minami, director of the international affairs division at Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, said today. Angolan Oil Minister Jose Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos yesterday said his country would prefer to see Brent oil at $110 to $115 a barrel. Mohamed Al-Hamli, the U.A.E.’s oil minister, and Mohammed Al-Rumhy of Oman both said prices were “high.”

Oil-consuming nations are trying to sustain growth in the face of rising crude prices, while producers are seeking to balance their national budgets without hurting demand.

Ecuador plans to raise oil output to 520,000 barrels a day by the end of the year from 504,000 barrels a day, Pastor said. The Latin American country is seeking to expand output by improving oil recovery rates at older deposits, he said.

The country will hold a bidding round in May for rights to develop crude at those mature fields, Pastor said. He said he expects U.S. oilfield services providers Halliburton Co. (HAL) and Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB) to bid in the round.

Ecuador is one of 12 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries along with Algeria, Angola, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Venezuela. Oman is the largest Arab oil producer that’s not an OPEC member.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ayesha Daya in Kuwait at adaya1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net


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